I rise at half eight. Teeth brushed, I head downstairs for breakfast. A bacon-led event.
That’s weird. The breakfast room is closed. I ask someone at the desk where it is. “Down to the end and on your left.”
It seems that they’re just using a corner of it while the rest is renovated. When I’m at the buffet a waitress tell me to use a large plate for the hot stuff. Then piles four slices of bacon on it. It seems churlish to put one back. I’ll just have the one egg, then.
The breakfast room was oddly quiet. I realise why, when I switch on the news back in my room. It’s an hour earlier than I thought. I forgot my watch was still on Dutch time. What a schoolboy error.
I meet Mike Siegel outside the Market Porter in borough market at 10:30. We’re going to take a stroll down Park Street to the Anchor. He’s disappointed that the pub isn’t open.
“It’s one of the last pubs that opens at 6 AM. I guess it’s closed because it’s the weekend.” Mike says.
You used to be able to drink 24 hours a day in London, even before the licensing hours changed. There were pubs that opened weird hours close to market. And the railway yards at Stratford.
While we’re waiting for the others, we take a look in Utobeer, the beer shop in Borough Market. Never been there before. I see lots of familiar favourites, including De Molen. It’s fun staring longingly at beer you’ve no intention of buying. Not even the Schlenkerla Helles, tempting as that is. As tempting as a bacon sandwich with slabs of cheese replacing bread. Deep fried.
On the way to the Anchor, I show Mike what’s left of the Barclay Perkins brewery: two brewers’ houses. A stern “Take Courage” slogan still visible on the gable end. There’s that and the plaque commemorating Barclay Perkins’ draymen beating up Austrian general Haynau in 1850. Good on them. He was a bastard who had women flogged.
Not yet noon and the Anchor is pretty empty. Just someone telling an obviously new member of staff the table numbers. I don’t mind. I hate crowds.
Out of the handles on the bar. Truman Swift catches my eye. It’s a bit hazy. Is it supposed to be like that? Mike seems to think it tastes OK. We have the one, then head off to The Rake. I’ve not been there since the launch of Brewery Yard, the beer I did with Goose Island.
Being still pretty early, there are only a few other customers. That doesn’t worry me. I hate crowds. The busier a pub is, the longer you have to wait for your pint. And I hate waiting for beer.
I ask for a Heavy Industry Collaborator.
The barman asks “Do you want a pint or a half.”
“A pint. I don’t do halves. Not even of Imperial Stout.”
There’s a big lump of Lancashire cheese on the table, purchased at the cheesemonger on Park Street. Mike gets out a pork pie, bought in the market. We all get stuck into the cheese.
“What would you like next, Ron.”
The Garden Croatian Imperial Stout has caught my eye. Should I have a third or a half?
“I’ll have a half of the Imperial Stout.”
“I thought you didn’t do halves?”
Damn me and my big mouth. It is just about afternoon. “OK. OK, a pint of Imperial Stout.” Just as well I didn’t ask for a third.
It is rather nice. And full of alcoholey goodness. Warming me from the inside out.
I fetch my next beer. “A pint of Imperial Stout, please.”
“Are you Ron?” the barmaid asks.
How on earth did she guess that?
Mike Hill, one of the owners of The Rake turns up and chats with us. He has great stories, some of them even fit for publication.
We don’t stay too long. We’ve an appointment with heaven. At least heaven on earth. The Royal Oak is just a refreshing stroll away. For me Mike Siegel and Johnny. The others are heading off doing their own stuff for a while. They’ll meet up with us later.
It’s pretty empty, just four or five other customers. I don’t mind. I hate crowds. Fuck, I love this pub.
I planned on starting with a Mild. But the Old is just too tempting. It’s sort of strong Mild, anyway. It’s gorgeous. Balancing effortlessly on that razorblade between drinkability and flavour. Fuck, I love Harvey’s.
We order a selection of meals, which we share. Pub tapas. All classic British stuff: fish and chips, bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, pie. Real health food stuff. I’m not that hungry, but nibble at a few bits anyway.
The Old is disappearing pleasantly down my throat. Fuck, I love Harvey’s. I could happily drink nothing else for the rest of my life.
We eventually reluctantly leave the Royal Oak. Some of the crew want to drop by Oxford Street. Close to Oxford Circus. For shopping or other such nonsense. I have something slightly different in mind.
“We could go to the Argyll Arms.” I suggest. “It’s just around the back of Oxford Circus. The interior is magnificent.”
We duly jump on a tube. Some shop, others pub, bound.
The Argyll Arms is pretty full so we can’t sit in one of the little booths. But we do find seats at the back. What should I drink? I know, let’s have a beer for a change.
I’m a good boy. I only stay for a couple of pints. I’m back in my hotel room in time to watch Match of the Day.
The Market Porter
9 Stoney St,
London SE1 9AA.
Tel: +44 20 7407 2495
24 Borough Market,
London SE1 1TL.
Tel: +44 20 7378 6617
34 Park St,
London SE1 9EF.
Hours: Open ⋅ Closes 12AM
Tel: +44 20 7407 1577
14A Winchester Walk,
London SE1 9AG.
Tel: +44 20 7407 0557
The Royal Oak
44 Tabard St,
London SE1 4JU.
Tel: +44 20 7357 7173
18 Argyll St,
London W1F 7TP.
Tel: +44 20 7734 6117
Goose Island paid for my travelling expenses to London and for quite a lot of food and drink while I was there.
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